An ancient pagoda in Brick colour with blue skies in its background

As you might already know, the tear-shaped island of Sri Lanka is popular as a paradise with natural charms. Still, it is not the only reason that makes millions of tourists visit Sri Lanka. Did you know that the splendor of the cultural and religious attractions in Sri Lanka lure a good number of visitors as well? However, Sri Lanka is a land blessed with majestic cultural values, woven through its ancient grandeur, and legends. Moreover, as the ‘Mahawansa’, or the ‘Great Sri Lankan History’ reveals, Sri Lanka owns a unique and proud civilization which is second to none of the extant civilizations in this whole world. Also, spanning over for more than 25 centuries, it has been able to achieve a series of cultural and religious values that one cannot even imagine.

As per the historical records, it is in the 3rd Century BC, that Buddhism was introduced to this island. Thenceforth, Buddhism remains an integral part of the Sri Lankan culture, shaping its civilization with unique identities. Afterward, overseas traders and invading European powers who colonized Sri Lanka, have impacted the Sri Lankan culture immensely. As a result, while having Sinhalese Buddhists as the majority of the country, Sri Lanka is now a home for Hindus, Islams, Christians, and Catholics as well.

Accordingly, Sri Lankan culture offers a delightful mix of the shades of all these customs, and traditions, which certainly enhances its significance furthermore. After all, it is mainly the cultural and religious attractions in Sri Lanka, that showcase the grandeur of Sri Lankan culture to the modern world. So, this simple reason has made these sites attractive and popular. Hence, a journey around these attractions is something that should never be missed.  

A Journey around the Cultural and Religious Attractions in Sri Lanka

So by now, you already know that Sri Lanka is a land of cultural diversity. However, its cultural values are mostly in-line with its history that spans thousands of years. So, most of the cultural and religious attractions in Sri Lanka have remarkable attachments with the gold olden days of this island as well.

Ancient Sri Lanka was mainly based on Kingdoms. Moreover, the royal dynasty of Sri Lanka might even be longest, which survived till the year 1815. However, a number of kings ruled this island from time to time, making different areas of this land their kingdom. Accordingly, those areas were rich with royal palaces, city complexes, religious places and sometimes even with reservoirs. So, in the present, these ancient cities still stand majestically with these ruins, monuments, sculptures, and historical architectures. Thus, there are many more ancient cities in Sri Lanka, which have now turned into places with cultural and religious values, that attract millions a year. 

Each of these sites have a significance of their own. Some might be famous due to their historical value. Another might attract visitors owing to its unique architectural values. Meanwhile, some might hold a sacred value that associates with a religion. Whatever it is, all of them have a beauty of their own, that is worth to be appreciated and explored. By now, getting to know all these things you might be surely eager to know about these cultural and religious attractions in Sri Lanka. Nothing to worry about! We are now ready to take you on a journey around these amazing attractions.

The Most Significant Cultural and Religious Attractions in Sri Lanka

Since there are many cultural and religious attractions on this island, we just thought of picking out the most significant out of them. So, let us first get to know what they are! Shall we?

  1. Anuradhapura
  2. Sigiriya
  3. Kandy
  4. Polonnaruwa
  5. Dambulla   
  6. Colombo
  7. Trincomalee
  8. Jaffna
  9. Galle

With that, we are all set to start our journey. Here we go!

1. The Ancient City of Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is one of the most significant cultural and religious attractions in Sri Lanka, and the greatest monastic city that attracts the most. It holds a remarkable value both in terms of history and religion. In brief, it is the first ancient kingdom on this island. Moreover, it also flourished as the first capital of this land and was the royal seat for almost 1400 years. Apart from that, the city of Anuradhapura was also the center of Theravada Buddhism for several hundred years. Touches of these signs are still visible in this majestic city. Therefore, this sacred city of Anuradhapura was named as a UNESCO Heritage Site in the year 1982. 

Reaching the city of Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura stands with grandeur in the North Central Province of this island, around 200 km away from Colombo. Reaching this city is not that hard. You can take a Colombo-Anuradhapura bus from the Colombo Central Bus station, and the journey would take around 5 hours. If not, you can even take a bus that heads to Jaffna, Mannar, and Mulathiv as well. By chance, if you wish to travel by train, there are several trains from Colombo Fort. And, after you get there, you can explore this ancient city in a cycle, in a tuk-tuk, or in a taxi.

Cultural and Religious Attractions in the city of Anuradhapura

Anuradhapura is a fine place for you to experience the fascination of splendid ancient palaces, parks, water ponds and reservoirs, and also Buddhist shrines and related constructions. All of them highlight the marvelous artistic values and engineering techniques that are indeed surprising. Their grandeur coupled with their historical values have made them perfect sightseeing attractions in the city. Some of the most popular religious and cultural attractions in Anuradhapura are lined up below.

i) Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya

As per the history, this is the southern branch of the Bo (Fig) tree in Buddha Gaya, under which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment. Thus, Buddhists consider this to be the most sacred tree on this whole island. Sri Lanka received this plant through ‘Sangamitta Theraniya’ during the regime of King Devanampiyatiisa. Afterwards, it had been planted in the Mahamewna Uyana, in Anuradhapura. From that day onwards, devotees have preserved and worshiped it with respect. Moreover, Jaya Sri Maha Bodhiya is considered as the most ancient tree in the world, with a recorded planting date.  

ii) RuwanweliSeya

RuwanweliSeya also known as Mahathupa. Swarnamali Chaitya and Rathnamali Dagaba is the stupa of the Maha Viharaya in Anuradhapura. It is in a walking distance from the ‘Jaya-Sri-Maha Bodhiya’. Moreover, a number of valuable gems and objects, as well as relics of Lord Buddha are enshrined within this Stupa. Its history dates back to the 2nd Century B.C, and it is a work of King Dutugemunu. Of course, it is old. Still it stands nobly, with a height of 103 meters, attracting hundreds of visitors per day. 

iii) Thuparamaya

Thuparamaya is the first ancient stupa built after the introduction of Buddhism to this island. It is a work of King Devanampiyatissa, and the stupa enshrines the relics of the collarbone of the Lord Buddha. Upon several renovations, it stands with grandeur in an area between the Jaya-Sri-Maha Bodhiya and RuwaneliSeya, attracting many.

iv) Abhayagiriya

This too happens to be one of the most visited sites in Anuradhapura. It has been a monastery of Mahayana, with a large valuable library in it. Abhayagiriya is a work of King Walagamba, and it enshrines relics of Buddha, which are hallowed in a figure of bull made of thick gold. This stupa remains in brick colour, and a number of renovations has helped it reach this status.

v) Jethawanaramaya

With a height of 400 m, Jethawanaramaya stands as the largest stupa in Sri Lanka. Moreover, Stupas like in Sri Lanka are rare in this whole world. Thus, Jethawanaramaya is also considered as the largest stupa in the world as well. Considering its importance, UNESCO is carrying out a project to assist Sri Lanka in renovating this shrine. Besides, it is famous as a work of King Mahasen, and this stupa enshrines a part of a slash of Buddha.   

vi) Mirisawetiya

The splendid stupa of Mirisawetiya, is a sacred  stupa by King Dutugemunu in the Anuradhaura era. Lying on the shores of Tissa Wewa, it further enhances the glamour and charm of the Anuradhapura city. The stupa of Mirisawetiya enshrines the relics of Lord Buddha, and though old, it remains in a good condition owing to the constructions that take place from time to time.  

vii) Samadhi Statue

This is a statue of granite, which symbolized the Lord Buddha in ‘Dhyana Mudra’. Placed in the ‘Mahamewna Uyana’, this happens to be one of the best such sculptures in the whole world. Further, the features it deficits, prove the amazing artistic talents of its creators as well. Its amazing artistic values which are coupled with the religious value, make it one of the most respected and attractive places in the city of Anuradhapura.

viii) Isurumuniya

Lying on the shores of ‘Tissa Wewa’, in close proximity to the stupa of Mirisawetiya, Isurumuniya adds a significant addition to the attractions in Anuradhapura. Moreover, it is famous for the stone carvings that it houses, namely, Isurumuniya Lovers, Elephant Pond, and the Royal Family. These carvings are some of the best talents of the ancient era, and are well preserved. Isurumuniya is from the era of King Devanamiya Tissa.       

ix) Lovamahapaya

Lovamahapaya stands majestically between the Sri Maha Bodhiya and Ruwanweliseya. It happens to be a nine storied building done by King Dutugamunu, and its ruins are still there in this site. Lovamahapaya is also known as Brazen Palace and Loha Prasadaya, owing to the bronze colour roof tiles that it has.

x) Twin Pond

As the name suggests, ‘twin pond’ is a pair of ancient ponds that are located next to each other. This belongs to the Abhayagiri Vihara Complex and is a fine example of the ancient Sri Lankan engineering marvels. The history reveals that they were constricted for the bathing of Abhayagiri bhikkhus. 

After all, these are just the top 10 most significant attractions in the city of Anuradhapura. Still, let us remind you again that it is an awe-inspiring city rich with significant ruins, glorious monuments, as well as enchanting reservoirs. Thus, there is certainly a lot more for you to explore. Surely, you will discover more marvels of this city while you travel around it.

2. The Prestigious Sigiriya

Of course, you might have certainly heard about Sigiriya. It is an ancient, yet magnificent rock fortress that amazes the whole world. Built by King Kasyapa, it remains as an inspiring site with wonderful archaeological, artistic, and engineering values. Considering its splendor and uniqueness, UNESCO declared it a world heritage site. Also, it is popular as the 8th wonder of the world.

Its entrance takes the form of a huge lion, made out of the stone itself. Moreover, its name, ‘Sigiriya’, derived from ‘Sinha-Giri’, simply holds the meaning of the lion rock. It is through the moat and the water gardens that the visitors reach the foot of this rock. Further, the stairway carved out of the rock, and the narrow iron staircase which follows it, make the path for the visitors to reach the top. Of course, it is a journey of around 2 hours. Thus, many choose it as an ideal hiking spot to enjoy with their families and friends.  

Its fortress lies within a striking setting on the summit of this rock, which stands 600ft above its surrounding plain. Some of the ruins of this ancient fortress are still there, which surely make the visitors gape in wonder. Moreover, the breathtaking views that this rock top creates make the visitors totally forget their efforts of reaching the summit. And you know what? The Sigiriya rock top, with the sight of the Pidurangala rock which stands a few miles apart, creates an amazing location for photography as well. 

However, there are few things that we can never forget when talking about this wonderful creation. They are the Water Garden, Mirror Wall and the Sigiriya Frescoes. Wondering what they are! They are just impressive beyond words. Following sections would help you know about them.  

Sigiriya Frescoes

Sigiriya Frescoes are remains of a series of amazing arts that adorn the walls of Sigiriya. Of course, there are several interpretations about these paintings. Some say that the golden skinned ladies with bare breasts,  symbolize goddesses who protect and bless this fortress. Some interpret that they are a sign of purity and beauty. Meanwhile, there is also a belief that these arts signify the exotic beauty of the royal family, especially King Kashyapa’s daughters and his harem of  500 concubines. The rich and gem-studded ornaments on the female bodies of these arts support this factor furthermore. Besides, some interpret the blue skinned ladies among these paintings as the escort ladies of this palace.

However, these paintings still remain significant, being a magnificent spectacle, for whoever visits the citadel. Thus, the authorities have already taken several measures to preserve them for the future as well. Moreover, it is popular that a collection of quite similar paintings are there in the Ajanta Caves of India.  Nevertheless, Sigiriya Frescoes are simply one of the most ancient and impressive art galleries in the world.

Sigiriya Mirror Wall

There is a belief that this wall was very-well polished in the olden days. Thus, acting as a mirror from which the king could see his own reflection, it has become popular as the mirror wall. However, it is not the same, in the present. Going beyond a wall, it has now become a fascination of both history and literature, with a bunch of expressions and thoughts on it.

The poems and prose on it, known as ‘kurutu gee’, are creations of visitors over years. Most of them are in a not-so-familiar language style for the typical Sri Lankans. However, Prof. Senarath Paranavithana, enthusiastically deciphered these inscriptions and revealed several facts. Accordingly, he discloses that there are more than 100 unique words stemming from the main languages of the country visible here. Some of them have got the influence of sanskrit. Further, he has been able to identify more than 800 individual names over there, along with other creative creations.

Besides, this mirror wall is absolutely a reflection of the ancient lifestyles, thoughts, and creativity of the people who explored Sigiriya. Moreover, they showcase the true joys of the travellers who visit this rock fortress. And why not? It also reveals that Sigiriya has been an attraction for huge crowds of visitors for more than 1000 years. Considering its uniqueness and values, the authorities are preserving it for the future generations and accordingly, no one can paint on this mirror wall anymore.

Sigiriya Water Garden

Sigiriya is famous for its ancient landscaped gardens, and meanwhile, its water garden happens to be the most significant.  It is simply a complex hydraulic system, which is certainly a marvel of ancient engineering techniques. Specifically, it is a complete water system with canals, lakes, bridges, fountains, dams, and water pumps. And the specialty is, its fountains are still functioning, and the circulation of water through the channels of this water garden happens methodically during rainy seasons even now. Its history dating back to the 5th century, surely, this should be the most ancient water system in the world. Thus, it is obviously an appreciable creation beyond doubt.  

Reaching the Sigiriya Rock Fortress

Sigiriya is in a pleasant environment in the Central Province of Sri Lanka, in between the cities, Dambulla, and Hamabarana. The easiest way to reach Sigiriya is by bus. First, you should get to Dambulla. There are several busses from Colombo that go passing Dambulla, such as Colombo-Jaffna, Colombo-Trincomalee, and Colombo-Vavuniya. But make sure to check whether they travel via Dambulla since they might also take another route. However, once you get to Dambulla, you can get any of the buses that go passing Inamaluwa junction to reach Sigiriya. After getting down from that bus, Sigiriya fortress is within a walking distance.

3. The Charming City of Kandy

The charming city of Kandy, earlier known as ‘Senkadagalapura’, is one of the most sacred cities on this island. Apart from its spiritual significance, it also holds a remarkable place in Sri Lankan history, as the last kingdom of ancient Sri Lanka. Thus, the city of Kandy is rich with the touches of grand Kandyan customs, artistic values, and cultural aspects. Moreover, the colonial architecture with shades of the Portuguese and Dutch, along with the Kandyan inspired architecture add more beauty to this elegant and attractive city.

Reaching the city of Kandy

Resting among the mountains and the lush greenery of the Central Highlands, Kandy happens to be the main city in the central province of Sri Lanka. It is at a distance of around 120 km from Colombo. However, transportation to Kandy is never an issue from any of the areas on this island. If you are planning to visit Kandy any sooner, of course you can either choose to travel by bus or by train. From Colombo, there are normal buses as well as intercity AC buses that head to this beautiful destination. They would only take around 3 and a half hours to visit Kandy. Moreover, you can even choose to travel to Kandy by train. There are several trains that reach Kandy daily, among which you can select what suits you the best.    .       

Attractions in the city of Kandy

Kandy has always been a famous tourist attraction in Sri Lanka owing to its scenic beauty, and its cool relaxing climate. Nevertheless, Kandy houses a number of cultural and religious attractions in Sri Lanka. Considering these factors, the sacred city of Kandy was also declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can find below some of the key attractions in this beautiful city of Kandy.

i) The Temple of Tooth Relic

Apart from the Sri Maha Bodhiya, the temple of tooth relic, also known as ‘Sri Dalada Maligawa’, is the most sacred site of attraction for Buddhists. Simply, this is something beyond a religious place. The word ‘Maligawa’ itself means Palace. Therefore, we can introduce this site as a palace complex, which is almost  three centuries old.

It stands next to the Kandy (Bogambara) lake, and its spiritual significance is mainly based on the tooth relic of Lord Buddha that it houses. Owing to this fact, it receives homage from millions of devotees every year. Moreover, this entire complex is a fine symbol of Sri Lankan culture, specially of the grandeur of the Kandyan architecture. The peaked tiled roofs, chambers, ivory carved door of the chambers, attractive paintings on the walls and large carved entrance over the moat are few significant features of this building complex. Therefore, it is clear that the temple of tooth relic is not only a religious site, but also a heaven for historic and artistic enthusiasts. 

ii) Embekke Devalaya

Sometimes, you might not have heard of this. Still, it is in close proximity to Kandy and is one of the significant attractions with high-quality wood carvings. Simply, all that you can see there is elegant and astonishing works of wood that entirely cover the temple. Even UNESCO proves this fact, by declaring it as a place with the world’s best and detailed woodworks. Apart from its amazing glamour of architecture, it also holds a cultural value since it is a site devoted to a god. And there is something pretty interesting in regard! As Hindus believe it is devoted to god ‘Murugan’, and as for Buddhists, it is for ‘Kataragama deity’. However, devotees of both these religions pay homage and respect this site. Accordingly, it even remains as a symbol of the unity among religions in Sri Lanka as well. 

iii) Degaldoruwa Viharaya

Of course, this is one of the less popular sites around Kandy. In brief, this is  a cave temple, built by King Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe. Apart from its historic values, it is an ideal place to study the unique features of the arts of the Kandyan era. Its frescoes depicting the Buddhist Jataka Tales, represented in a unique style are just wonderful beyond words. However, Degaldoruwa Viharaya should be a must, if you are interested in Sri Lankan Buddhist arts.

 iv) Lankathilaka Rajamaha Viharaya

Lankathilaka Rajamaha Viharaya might not be so famous, yet it is an interesting religious site for you to explore. It is also known as ‘Blue Temple’ and is on the summit of rock of Panhangala in the Kandy district. Moreover, its architectural styles with the influence of both Buddhism and Hinduism, further enhances its uniqueness, making it a must to visit.

4. The Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Following the kingdom of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa became the second ancient kingdom and the second capital of Sri Lanka. Accordingly, it has remained as the center of the commercial and religious aspects of the country, for almost three centuries. And surprisingly, it has not only been the capital of the Sinhalese kingdoms, but also a kingdom for the Chola dynasty as well. Thus, the city of Polonnaruwa is a place with the shades of both Sinhalese and Chola cultures. However, considering its archaeological prominence and cultural values, UNESCO declared the ancient city of Polonnaruwa as a world heritage site

Reaching the city of Polonnaruwa

Located in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka, Polonnaruwa lies in a distance of around 200 km from Colombo. You can find buses to reach Polonnaruwa from any of the major cities such as Colombo, Kandy, Anuradhapura, or Dambulla. The journey would take around 6 hours from Colombo, 3 hours from Anuradhapura and Kandy, and about an hour from Dambulla.     

Must Sees in the Ancient City of Polonnaruwa

Indeed, Polonnaruwa is a glorious city to explore! The ruins of the ancient kingdom, religious places with both the Buddhist and Hindu impacts, as well as the reservoirs collectively make it one of the best cities to visit. So, excited to know about the major cultural and religious attractions in this city? Of course, there is a lot! Below are some of them.

i) Sacred Quadrangle

As the name suggests, yes, it is a quadrangle, with a group of wonderful ruins bound within it. At its center is the ‘Vatadage’, the circular relic house, with an outer terrace which has got four entrances. These entrances are with decorated guard stones, which surely, takes its grandeur into another level. All these entrances lead the visitors towards the central Dagoda, where they can find stone Buddha statues. Obviously, it simply covers a lot about the majesty of this ancient city. So, it is surely a must for you to visit in this splendid city    

ii) Shiva Devale No.2

Shiva Devale, simply stands out of the rest of the ruins in this whole island, since it is a construction with a strong impact of Hinduism. Moreover, this is one of the very few ancient Hindu temples on this land. There is a belief that this is the oldest building within this city, since it belongs to the Chola dynasty. However, owing to the fact that it is made out of stone, it remains in good quality even at the present.

iii) Pabalu Vehera

Pabalu Vehera is an ancient stupa and is the third-largest in the ancient city of Polonnaruwa. Even though a bit damaged, it still remains in a good condition, and further, this site houses a few stone Buddha statues as well.

iv) Rankoth Vehera

This is the largest stupa in Polonnaruwa, and the fourth largest in Sri Lanka. It stands with grandeur at a height of 54 feets, and is a work of King Nishshankamalla.

v) Gal Viharaya

It is a site that houses four significant statues of Lord Buddha, cut from a single slab of a large granite. These charming statues still stand in perfect conditions, proving the amazing talents of the art of stone sculpture in Sri Lanka. There is a belief that King Parakramabahu is the founder of this viharaya, and this was earlier famous as Uttararamaya. However, this is a perfect attraction for the devotees, as well as for the enthusiasts in Sri Lankan Buddhist Art. 

vi) Ruins of the Royal Palace

Of course, this is a collection of ruins that showcase the majesty of the Polonnaruwa kingdom. The ruins of the impressive building of the royal palace hold a major place among them. Considering these ruins, archaeologists reveal that this had been one of the greatest creations of Sri Lankan Engineering History. Apart from that, the king’s audience hall, and the swimming pool happen to be some of the best-preserved structures in this group.

5. The Majestic City of Dambulla

Many who visit Anuradhapura, and Sigiriya, never forget to spend at least a few hours at this beautiful city of Dambulla. It is true that it does not house that many of the cultural and religious attractions in Sri Lanka. Still, it is a city with historical background and unique cultural values. Thus, we would suggest that it is a must if you ever plan to travel around this splendid island.

Reaching the city of Dambulla

Dambulla is a popular city in the Central Province of Sri Lanka and is within a distance of around 150 km from Colombo. If you have read our whole article up to now, you surely know how to reach this majestic city of Dambulla. However, let us just remind you once again. As you might already know, there are several busses from Colombo that go passing Dambulla, such as Colombo-Jaffna, Colombo-Trincomalee, and Colombo-Vavuniya. So, you can take any of them to reach Dambulla. Still,  make sure to check whether they travel via Dambulla, since they might also take another route. Apart from that, you can even take a train to Habarana, and then reach Dambulla as well. However, if you are using public transportation, we suggest that taking a bus would be the best for you.  

Cultural and Religious Attractions in the City of Dambulla

Of course, there are several attractions around the city of Dambulla. Still, only very few cultural and religious attractions are among them. Thus, let us share with you the most important one of them, which is the Dambulla cave temple.

Dambulla Cave Temple

Amidst the plains of Dambulla, stands the Dambulla cave temple, the best-preserved rock temple of Sri Lanka. This spiritual sanctuary has got significance starting from its appearance. The first thing that you can observe when you get there is that this temple is within an enormous granite outcrop. Moreover, this awe-inspiring temple complex owns five major caves. One cave does not hold historical values. All the other caves, house more than 150 Buddha statues, as well as the status of gods.

  • Cave 1: The first cave that the visitors come across within this site is known as the Dev-Raja-viharaya, which means the temple of the King of Gods. The principal attraction of this cave is an image that depicts the parinibbana of Lord Buddha. Other than that, it houses another five images, along with a statue of Vishnu.  
  • Cave 2: The next cave visitors enter is known as the Maharaja Viharaya. Moreover, it is the largest and the most attractive cave comparatively. The paintings all over the cave, a statue of standing Buddha under the Makata Torana, two standing figures of deity Natha and deity Maitreya, and the stupa with four figures of Buddha, are some of the main attractions in it.
  • Cave 3: This cave is famous as the Maha Aleut Viharaya. Further, it houses fifty statues of Lord Buddha in total. 
  • Cave 4: The fourth cave in this temple complex is the Panchima Viharaya. It houses 10 significant statues of Buddha.

All these treasures, the huge cave paintings & murals take the artistic value of this temple to another level. Hence, UNESCO declared it a world heritage site as well. However, it is certainly a must-visit and is a paradise of knowledge for the students who explore the Buddhist temple arts and the artistic values of the Kandyan Period.

6. The Vibrant City of Colombo

The vibrant city of Colombo is indeed a city with hustles and bustles and is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. Still, the Bere lake at the heart of the city, verdant paths, modern building complexes, along with the colonial architectures makes it a city worth exploring.   Further, the churches, mosques, and temples standing along the same whirling streets prove the fascination of the charming heritage and the enticing culture even within this busy city. Thus, its multi-ethnic legacy that infuses visitors with delight, and is certainly something that should never be missed. 

Reaching the City of Colombo

Colombo in the Western Province, being the central hub of this country, reaching there is never an issue. If you are planning to get into the city of Colombo, directly from the Colombo Bandaranayake International Airport, it is just a 40 minutes drive through the expressway. You can use either take an AC bus, or a taxi for this trip. Apart from that, there are buses that reach Colombo from almost all the major cities on this island. And why not? If you are aiming for public transportation, trains that head to Colombo are available from any of the areas in Sri Lanka as well.  

Significant Cultural and Religious Attractions in the city of Colombo

Indeed, Colombo is a gateway to wonders, and there are a good number of attractions within Colombo, and its vicinity. Among them are a few significant cultural and religious attractions as well. Below are some of them.

i) Gangaramaya Temple

Gangaramaya is a temple with unique features and is located in Colombo 2, within walking distance from the Bere Lake. Its history dates back to the era of Ven. Hikkaduwa Sri Sumangala Nayaka Thero in the 19th century. However, it is not only its historic values that make it significant, but also its unique architecture that is rare to be seen elsewhere. Further, it houses a series of large corridors with thousands of objects and statues that belong to the Buddhist and Hindu lore. Some of them happen to be donations from various countries as well. However, Gangaramaya is a temple and also a museum, that showcases the glory of Buddhism, as well as the history.    

 ii) St. Anthony’s Church

This is a modern roman catholic church dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, and it is in Kochchikade, a few miles away from Colombo. It is heavily crowded most of the days. Many devotees as well as non-Catholics visit this shrine since they consider it a place of miracles.  It also houses a small museum dedicated to the memory of the patron saint. Thus, visiting there would certainly be a stroll to the past of Roman Catholicism in Sri Lanka.

iii) Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque

This is one of the most significant mosques in Sri Lanka, and it stands amidst the busy streets of Pettah. Of course, it can be easily spotted owing to its fascinating architecture, and its appearance in red and white. Apart from that, its structure does not contain the traditional onion-shaped domes which are common in the other mosques. However, it is a fine site to observe the shades of the unique Islamic culture in Sri Lanka. Thus, visiting there is simply interesting. Still, make sure to avoid the prayer times of islams when you visit there, since it closes 5 times a day for the prayers.   

iv) Kelaniya Temple

Kelaniya is one of the most sacred sites of Buddhists. It stands with pride by the shores of the Kelani river, in the city of Kelani, a few miles away from Colombo. There is a belief that the Lord Buddha arrived at this site on his third visit to Sri Lanka. Moreover, as per the history,  the shrine of Kelaniya temple enshrines the gem embedded chair on which the Lord Buddha sat for the sermon during his visit. Considering all these values, as well as its unique architectural styles and famous Buddhist paintings, hundreds of devotees visit this site daily.

7. The Beautiful Town of Trincomalee

Trincomalee is a small town, popular for its scenic golden shores. Moreover, it highly attracts visitors owing to the fact that its waves create perfect opportunities for several water activities. However, the town of Trincomalee holds a bunch of values going beyond the breathtaking views it offers. Simply, it is a city with a mix of Sinhalese, Tamils, and Muslims. Thus, it is an ideal destination to experience the beauty of these impressive cultures, that would surely amaze you.

Reaching the city of Trincomalee

Trincomalee rests in the Eastern Province of Sri Lanka, and this city is around 260km away from Colombo. With regard to reaching Trincomalee, buses and trains that head to Trincomalee are not that common from each and every major city in Sri Lanka. Still, if you aim for public transportation, you can always find a way to reach Trincomalee, by at least using two or three buses from any of the cities island wide. Besides, travelling to Trincomalee from Colombo is not that hard. There are buses that head to Trincomalee leaving the Colombo Central Bus Station every 30 minutes. So, you can easily get into one of them. And if not, you can take a train from the Colombo Fort Railway Station. The journey would be around 3 and a half hours, and usually, there are 5 trains that reach Trincomalee daily.

Must-visit Cultural and Religious Attractions in the City of Trincomalee

By now, you already know that the major attractions of Trincomalee are revolving around its blue waves and golden sandy stretches. Still, let us remind you that there are several cultural and religious attractions in this city that are worth visiting. Willing to know what they are? You can find below the most significant sites out of them!

i) Koneswaram Hindu Temple

Since, Trincomalee is home to a large number of Hindus, Hindu Temples, or ‘Kovils’ are common in this small town. Among them, one of the most significant is the Koneswaram Temple, which is also known as the ‘Thirukoneswaram’. This is mainly devoted to ‘God Shiva’, and its history runs back to 1580 BC. The visitors have to reach a summit in order to find the entrance of this temple, and at the entrance is a wonderful large sculpture carved into a living rock and painted. Moreover, there are many statues and sculptures within this temple, that showcase the Hindu beliefs. Further, its location on a high rocky promontory, of which its three sides are surrounded by sea enhances its grandeur more and more.  So, if you ever visit Trincomalee, never forget to visit this amazing site, to experience its delight, as well as the beauty of the Hindu culture.

ii) Seruwawila Raja Maha Viharaya

Seruwawila Raja Maha Viharaya is one of the ancient Buddhist temples in the Trincomalee district. Its history runs back to the era of King Kavantissa, and it enshrines the relics of the forehead of the Lord Buddha. Considering these historical and religious values, many devotees who visit Trincomalee, never forget to pay homage to this sacred Buddhist temple. And something interesting! Apart from reaching Seruwawila Raja Maha Viharaya through the land, you can even reach it in a boat, through the sea as well.  However, we would suggest that this Buddhist temple is a must for whoever appreciates the cultural and religious values of this small island.

8. The Fascinating Town of Jaffna

Jaffna, is simply the spirited cultural capital of Tamils in the island of Sri Lanka. Thus, its culture, which includes the lifestyle, food, language, religious places, as well as the arts are shaped with a strong influence of India. Moreover, its unique and complex identity has got shades of the colonial civilizations as well. All these together, make Jaffna, one of the fascinating towns, with a significant variance from the rest of the cities in Sri Lanka.

Of course, Jaffna was not that popular as an attraction over a number of years, since it was under strong attacks of terrorists for more than a decade. However, following the end of the 30 years civil war in Sri Lanka, the beauty of Jaffna is now flourishing again, along with a series of restoration and development projects. So, Jaffna is now an emergent tourist attraction, that offers a wonderful, yet unique experience with a cultural shock for whoever visits there.  

Reaching the city of Jaffna

Jaffna, is the main city in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, and it is around 390 km away from Colombo. If you are planning to travel to Jaffna from Colombo, of course, you can find enough and more buses and trains that head to Jaffna. Still, if you are to travel to Jaffna, from any of the other cities, you should certainly do research on it prior to your travel. Most of the major cities do not have direct buses to Jaffna, still, you will be able to get there with the help of two or three buses.            

Cultural and Religious attractions in Jaffna

As you might already know, the fascinating town of Jaffna houses an intriguing mixture of cultures. Thus, charming churches, colorful Hindu temples, along with the structures with colonial touches are obvious attractions in this town. However, if you are planning on a journey around Jaffna,  never miss the below highlights that would certainly gape you in wonder.

i) Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil

Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil, built in the 15th century is one of the major attractions in the city of Jaffna, as well as a prominent Hindu shrine in Sri Lanka. Its structure follows the Dravidian architecture, and its hues in red and gold colors, make it an obvious highlight of this city. Moreover, its grand arching entrance in golden pillars further enhances its beauty.   Its central main shrine houses statues of the major deities, as well as of the deity Lord Murugan, for whom this shrine is dedicated. Nallur Kandaswamy Kovil is certainly a fine example of the amazing Hindu architectural styles and their artistic values.  Thus, we would suggest it a must, if you are ever travelling around Jaffna.   

ii) Nagadeepa Raja Maha Viharaya

Nagadeepa Raja Maja Viharaya is one of the most sacred places for Buddhists and is located in the island of Nainativu, off the coast of Jaffna. Its spiritual significance is mainly based on the fact that Lord Buddha visited this site on his second journey to Sri Lanka, after 5 years of his enlightenment. Further, there is a belief that Buddha visited Nagadeepa to settle a dispute between two Na Kings, which was based on a gem-studded gold crown. As a result of settling this dispute, both the kings have pledged that crown to Lord Buddha and enshrined it in a stupa on this site. Thenceforth, it had remained as a sacred site. Nevertheless, the unique silver glinted stupa and the other structures in the present are constructions that were done in the 1950s. However, it remains as a sacred and significant Buddhist temple in the vicinity of Jaffna.

iii) Maruthanamadam Anjaneyar Hindu Temple

Maruthanamadam Anjaneyar Hindu temple does not hold that kind of historical value. Still, the 72 feet high Maruthanarmadam Anjanajar statue that it houses, makes it a significant highlight. Of course, this statue is even visible from a great distance, and it certainly adds colour to this holy place. The temple stands on the left of this statue, and it is surely a place of delight, with its stunning and vibrant architecture. Obviously, a visit there would offer you a fine experience of the architectural and artistic values of the Hinduism beyond doubt.

iv)  Kadurugoda Viharaya

Kadurugoda Viharaya, also known as the Yapa Pattana Kadurugoda Viharaya is a sacred Buddhist site, located in Chunnakam, in Jaffna district. Moreover, it is an exemplary archeological site, from where a number of remains of shrine rooms, Buddha statues, ancient coins, nearly 60 small and large Stupas Dagaba, and many more valuable objects were found. Thus, it is a site which offers a delightful experience for the visitors coupling the historical importance along with the religious values.

9. The Splendid City of Galle

The splendor of the city of Galle is simply inexpressive. It is that much of a paradise of wonders. The blue waves that hit the golden shores, the remains of the colonial architectures, and its scenic beauty, make it a lovely attraction that anyone would never miss. Furthermore, this fortified city built by the Europeans is the perfect example of such, for this whole of South Asia. Moreover,  it is the largest remaining fortress in Asia built by European occupiers. Considering all these great values, UNESCO declared the Galle fort as a world heritage.  Accordingly, the grandeur and the historical values of this fine city are just undefeatable for the beauty that it offers. Therefore, there is no wonder that this splendid city attracts thousands of tourists every year.   

Reaching the city of Galle

The city of Galle, in the Southern Coast of Sri Lanka, is around 120 km away from Colombo. However, Galle being a major city on this island, reaching Galle is never an issue. There are several buses and trains that head to this city, from any of the major cities in Sri Lanka. By chance, if you are planning to travel to Galle through bus, you can find expressway luxury buses at the Colombo Central Bus Station, that would take you to Galle, within just two hours. Apart from that, the train ride from Colombo to Galle, is also an ideal option, as it offers you a wonderful experience owing to the scenic surroundings through which they take you.

Cultural and Religious Attractions in the City of Galle

Of course, it is the blue waves and its scenic beaches that anyone would remind of when they hear about Galle. Still, let us remind you that there are many cultural and religious attractions in this city as well. If you have not heard about them earlier, check the sections below. You would surely get surprised with them!

i) Dutch Reformed Church

This is a sacred and unique site that you come across when strolling along Galle Dutch Fort streets. Further, it is a church with a series of legends woven around it. A guide would certainly help you know about them. Moreover, there is a belief that there are a number of graves embraced on its floor.  All these factors make it one of the significant cultural and religious attractions in Galle.

ii) Japanese Peace Pagoda

Japanese Peace Temple, located on the top of Rumassala Hills, is a perfect destination for you to soothe your soul. Moreover, its surroundings that create breathtaking views along with the ocean from one side, offers you a perfect spot to experience the beauty of nature. However, it is not a sacred site with a historical value. Still, its constructions that stand tall, and the unique rituals that take place everyday make it a significant attraction in the city of Galle. 

iii) St Joseph’s Chapel

Located in the Light House Street of the Galle Dutch Fort, St Joseph’s Chapel is an ancient chapel for Roman Catholics from the Portuguese times. Besides, the renovations during the Dutch colonies have given it a tint of the Dutch architectural styles. However, it is one fine example of colonized architecture and is a place to spend some time in peace in a calm and charming environment.  So, many who walk around the Dutch Fort, never forget to spend some time in this chapel.

iv) St. Mary’s Cathedral

St. Mary’s Cathedral is one of the famous religious sites in the city of Galle. Further, it is a church that prays to the Blessed Virgin Mary. It was built by the Society of Jesus at the end of the 19th century.  Thenceforth, it remains as a popular landmark of the city of Galle. Moreover, the majority of the Catholics who live in the South of Sri Lanka visit this church consistently. Thus, it remains an attraction for both locals as well as tourists.

v) Meeran Jumma Mosque

Meeran Jumma Mosque is a significant site that your eyes would catch when you are walking along the Galle Fort lanes. Of course, it holds a charm of its own, and most of the visitors even spend some time on its lawn enjoying its serenity.  Its unique architectural features such as the Italian flooring, arresting chandeliers, artistic glasses, and huge corridors make it one of the must-sees in the city of Galle.  Moreover, it is one of the significant cultural and religious attractions in Galle, which showcases the unique values of Islamic heritage.


With that, we have reached the end of our journey around the most significant cultural and religious attractions in Sri Lanka. All the places that you got to know about are certainly fine examples that prove to you again and again that it is not only the scenic beaches, wonderful cascades, amazing wildlife, and the pleasant climate that make Sri Lanka, one of the best tourist attractions. Thus, if you are planning to backpack in Sri Lanka, make sure that you explore the majesty of these ancient grandeurs, which will surely amaze you with delight.